South Carolina artists Signe and Genna Grushovenko create contemporary oil paintings inspired by vintage-found photographs.
Signe: Born in Michigan and was raised in a creative home in Washington, GA. She earned a BFA from LaGrange College, where she studied drawing and painting.
Genna: Born and raised in Ukraine. Growing up in the Soviet Union, he was taught early how to make a lot out of a little and do things well.
After serving his compulsory military in the Soviet military as a musician, he apprenticed as a potter. He worked professionally in Kiev as a potter until immigrating to the U.S. in 1997.
Signe and Genna were artists before they met. They began to collaborate within a few years of marrying in 1999.
In the beginning: Genna created a series of abstract paintings to serve as backdrops for his ceramic work for a solo show at the LaGrange Art Museum.
After the exhibition ended, Signe took those abstract paintings and painted her figurative imagery directly on top of them.
“It was more an issue of laziness than intent,” said Signe. “I didn’t want to take the time to gesso out what was underneath.”
The resulting images excited both artists. After that they pursued the collaboration wholeheartedly.
“I haven’t made a painting on my own for over 20 years,” said Signe.
Studios: The artists have been in Greenville, SC, for 12 years. They have separate spaces at Oyé Studios in the North Main neighborhood in Greenville, SC. Oyé is housed in a former church building and is home to 11 artists and one interior designer.
Art & materials: Semi-abstracted figurative paintings inspired by old photos, using acrylic and oil paint on stretched linen or gessoed Masonite panels ($1,600 to $18,000).
The artists collect images from antique stores, eBay and digitally.
What’s popular: “Crowd scene” series, inspired by images of spectators at the Apollo 11 launch in 1969. Other popular themes are couples and folks posing with their cars.
- Signe: One very specific $2.99 brush made by Royal & Langnickel.
“It’s almost become an extension of my arm,” said Signe. “If they stop making it, I may have to retire. I use the exact same brush for my smallest paintings as for my largest.
“It has a delightfully sharp tip that, depending on the pressure applied, can create the tightest, thin line or the most luxurious, bold stroke.”
- Genna: Gravity. Most of the paint is poured and manipulated by moving the entire canvas. Other favored tools: Artist-made notched brushes and multiple drafting pencils strapped together to produce multiple parallel lines with a single stroke.
Signe: Artists, including: Romare Bearden, Fairfield Porter, Milton Avery, Jules de Balencourt, Giorgio Morandi. Also mid-century architecture and fashion.
Genna: Artists including: Fernand Léger, Picasso, Alex Katz, Helen Frankenthaler and the Abstract Expressionists.
Unusual commission: For the Graduate Hotel in Columbia, SC., and home to the University of South Carolina (USC). The request was for three separate images, executed in their style, of:
- Darius Rucker, formerly the lead singer of Hootie & The Blowfish, the band he founded at USC in 1968.
- The astronaut from the “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The soundtrack from the 1968 movie is a USC football tradition, played as the USC team runs out of the entrance onto the playing field.
- The “Oot Oot,” man. The late Bill Golding, a big fan of the Gamecocks known for his strange cheer/chant at baseball games. He was affectionately called Mr. Oot Oot.
“It was such a strange request but the resulting work was good fun and fit beautifully into the playful interior design of the hotel.”
- “Reconfigure,” Oyé Studios Fall Show, Greenville, SC. Oct. 21.
- Coconut Grove Art Festival, FL. Feb. 17-19, 2024.
- LaQuinta Art Celebration, LaQuinta, CA. Feb. 29-March 3, 2024.
- Artisphere, Greenville, SC. May 10-12, 2024.
Where to buy: Grushovenko.com
- Facebook: Signe & Genna Grushovenko
- Instagram: @thegrushovenkos